A Photo in Time

McCain and MeIn February of 2008, the week Mitt Romney suspended his campaign and threw his support behind John McCain, the Arizona senator and would-be president came to Washington. I got to ride with other reporters in a van that took him from Boeing Field to a hotel in downtown Seattle. The other reporters did most of the talking. I held a video camera for a while and listened. I got one question in, a follow-up question.

Today I wrote about the event on my work blog, Kitsap Caucus. Go there to see my recollection of that day.

Actually, the LDS Church’s Stand on Prop 8 Is Ironic

In the Deseret News publication Mormon Times, journalist Joel Campbell wrote commentators finding the Mormon Church’s support of California’s Proposition 8 “ironic” is itself ironic. I disagree. There is plenty of irony there.

The ballot measure, which passed Tuesday, defines marriage in California’s constitution as between a man and a woman. The irony some commentators see, as illustrated by Campbell, isn’t on target. The church no longer practices polygamy. And likening the persecution same-sex marriage supporters get now to what the LDS pioneers saw in the 19th century is at least a stretch in terms of degree. The church is backing a democratic ballot measure. It’s not legalizing the extermination of those who would marry someone of the same gender.

But by the definition of irony Campbell himself offers, the church‘s support does indeed demonstrate irony. Campbell wrote, “By definition, to have irony you need to have incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs.”

On the most basic level, a church that once embraced a tweaked version of marriage, polygamy, now approving laws against another version, same-sex, could easily be seen as what’s expected being disconnected from what occurs.

Campbell responds to a Washington Post-Newsweek blogger who made that case by writing, “For us Mormons, the blogger could have just as well asserted that he found it ironic that Catholics support peace because Catholics once supported the Crusades.”

It’s a tempting argument, but the problem is that Catholics themselves argue among themselves about the rightness of the Crusades. Those wars have their defenders, too, but few today would argue for a similar campaign. They would think it wrong.

No one in the LDS church, no one who is intent on remaining in good standing in the church, is arguing for the reinstatement of polygamy, either. But I joined the church at age 11 and the adults talked openly about the possible return of the practice one day. Some still talk as if it might happen, as distasteful as that may sound. Our temple marriages reflect that belief in that a man can be sealed to more than one woman, but the same is not true of women being sealed to men.

The LDS church does not teach that polygamy is wrong, except that it violates the law. It was the vision of the destruction of the church entirely that was the large factor in the church’s decision to abandon the practice, not any recognition that the practice itself was unholy.

Among the church’s resources for journalists on the Internet is a publication of a Q&A from the Los Angeles Times and another primer on polygamy. From the
Q&A in the Times

“Question: Is polygamy gone forever from the Church?
We only know what the Lord has revealed through His prophets, that plural marriage has been stopped in the Church. Anything else is speculative and unwarranted.”

From the primer:

“. . . the standard of the Lord’s people is monogamy unless the Lord reveals otherwise.”

So the church’s position is that monogamy, one man and one woman, is the rule unless God wants it otherwise. This is the sticky point. In the blog Campbell references, LDS Apostle Dallin H. Oaks acknowledges that if you don’t recognize revelation, communication from God dictating the activities of those in His church, then the irony is “profound.”

Further ironic is that the ballot measure not only affected gay marriages, which the church teaches is wrong, it constitutionally outlaws polygamy, which the church does not practice but also does not categorically condemn.

So what’s prohibiting the church from practicing marriage as it might see fit is now the California constitution, based on an amendment the church itself supported. That God would accept polygamy being illegal in order to prevent gay marriage from becoming legal is a point you could argue, but there is most certainly room to recognize the irony.

Journalism on Swiss Cheese

For weeks I’ve participated in gallows humor about the company’s annual Thanksgiving budget cuts. Surely the company isn’t trying to dampen the holidays, I know. But the two previous years were marked by announcements of layoffs. In 2006 we were told 10 had to go. Buyouts were offered.

Last year we got the same announcement, only cut in half, if memory serves me. More buyouts were offered, but only to certain employees. I didn’t qualify and wouldn’t have considered it if I had.

Yesterday we got the e-mail that we would meet about the budget today. In the last few months our editor announced his end-of-year retirement and I had some hunches about three other people. All of those hunches were educated ones.

A few minutes after 3 p.m. we gathered in the conference room, just as we did the previous two years. Six and a half employees had to go from the newsroom, and they had already been notified.

While the fact that there are not two months of mystery hanging over us is comforting, that comfort is equalized by the sinking feeling about an industry that is in the dark part of transformation. Someone will be providing news online years from now. It will probably be the Kitsap Sun, among myriad print publications that become online-oriented, offering print products as a niche. I just don’t know if my future includes being a reporter well into the future. I have enough seniority to believe my job is safe for a while, but it’s very easy to imagine an opportunity to do something else being extremely tempting.

I’m making no plans to leave my job. I have no offers to go elsewhere and I haven’t really been looking. For a few years, though, I’ve thought it would be cool to do something else and report on a freelance basis. And personally, the downside of having the good year I’ve had is that I can say I’ve done all I ever wanted to do as a reporter. I still love this job and when I stop being so tired I‘ll really be looking forward to the upcoming legislative session. On July 31 I’ll have 10 consecutive years in the business. I’d kind of like to make it to that milestone.

Yet it would bring me more joy to provide more for my family, to be home with them more than I am. Part of my intention in getting back into journalism back in 1999 was that a few years in the business would make me more marketable as an employee in some other business. I still have the goal of writing opinion for a living. So I guess I don’t really ever want to leave journalism. The business is going to change, though, and I have to be prepared for the idea that what I want might not match the reality in the industry.

This Year Was Close to What I Pictured Way Back When

When I got into journalism and did a couple of D.C. internships, this year was pretty close to what I envisioned. I got to cover the presidential election this year. I also covered local politics, but I’ll be honest that local races weren’t really the dream all those years ago. It was the national stuff. In reality I envisioned being a reporter in D.C. and living in Virginia in some two-story house in the woods. We’ve got the house in the woods, more or less, but we’re in the other Washington. I couldn’t be happier about that now.

This past year I got to attend campaign events by Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain, all in 24 hours. Later I wrote stories about national issues focusing on locals. Then I went to the Joe Biden event.

I feel so lucky to have been able to do this. I don’t know if I did it well, but so many thanks I give for getting the chance. Should I get a chance to do it again in four years, I’ll do it better. But even if I don’t, I’ll have always had 2008. This isn’t written without the knowledge that for many people 2008 was a downer year, despite the election. My only answer would be that while others were riding high in the late 1990s, I was struggling. And this year was not a major biggie for me in terms of money.

No, this year was rich because I was lucky enough to spend my year studying and immersing myself in what I think is the most interesting thing in the world, American politics. Whatever my career offers in the future, I’ll always have this, and it will have made me better in what I do. I don’t want to be too much of a sock-sucker (the Chilean equivalent of “brown noser”), but my bosses deserve thanks for giving me this chance.

Four years ago, the day after the election this wasn’t what I wanted to do. I wanted to be writing editorials by the next time an election came around. That didn’t happen. Again, I couldn’t be happier.

Surpassing Expectations, So Far

As I mentioned a day ago, I’m participating in the annual National Novel Writing Month, the challenge that is exactly what its title suggests. You write a novel in a month. There is no judging of the work, only the word count, and an acknowledgment that a lot of what will be written will be crap. As I said previously, the magic is in the editing.

When midnight struck on Nov. 1, I was in the middle of watching a movie. Once that ended I took to writing my first bit. To get to 50,000 words, the target for those doing this, you have to write about 1,667 words every day. I broke 2,000 the first night and went to be around 3 a.m. Before bed on Saturday I broke 4,200 and tonight I surpassed 6,300. So I’m about 1,300 words ahead of schedule.

I think I need to be. For one, fear of not finishing has overtaken me. I’ve got an idea that’s going somewhere and I’ve got a deadline. Second, I want the certificate and Web badge you get for doing the work. Third, there’s an election Tuesday and I’m aware that on that day it might be kind of tough for me to carry on with this project. So when I start again I don’t want to be behind.

The odd thing was, today I knew that even if I wrote nothing, I’d be ahead of schedule because I had technically done more than two days work on the first day. And yet later in the evening I decided to pick up the laptop, because I had thought of an ending and I knew where the story was going next. So I decided to write at least the ending. I did so and found out I had added about 600 words pretty easily. That was enough to get me going back to where I was in the story to continue on.

Tonight I had little intention of writing and no expectations about where I’d end up once I started, yet when I did so it was the most enjoyable chapter of this whole experience. I guess that should tell me something.

Not Funny

Friends at work convinced me to join the NaNoWriMo project this year. It’s where you write a novel, 50,000 words, in a month. I’m keeping pace after day one, keeping ahead of the count you need to finish. I’ve noticed a few things, though.

1. When they tell you that your stuff will include a lot of crap, that is so unbelievably true. I think anyone reading my novel would fall asleep, or decide to get off the toilet, within about 37 seconds.

2. That there’s crap is beneficial, because it reinforces my long-held belief that the magic will sometimes come in the writing, but it’s more often in the editing. I decided to do NaNoWriMo this year in spite of the other two projects I had in mind because the first few sentences of the fiction piece struck me from out of the Washington gray skies. I liked those lines. Everything else since has been really bland.

3. I put my book in the “Satire, Humor & Parody” category, but so far it’s not very funny. I’ve got a decent premise going, but I like the humor I find in writers like Steve Martin or Lewis Grizzard. They go along telling you a story and drop in lines here and there that strike you. I’m not funny in the first draft very often.

4. Editing is the beauty. Writing this novel will be fine. Editing it will be hard, but if this thing is to be worth a read at all, the editing will be necessary.

5. Come the end of November my intention will likely be to go back to my other projects and work on those with at least half the intensity I’ve demonstrated doing this work. My rationale for doing the novel was that it could spark some creativity that will benefit those works. On Dec. 1 I might change my mind.

That Looked Like a McCain Concession

This could be dangerous for me. It’s probably way too soon to speculate like this, moments after watching the opening sketch on Saturday Night Live. I don’t know how John McCain will appear on the rest of the show, but that opening sketch seemed like it would have been far more appropriate, for lack of a better word right now, next Saturday.

The sketch had all the energy of an after-the-loss skit. When Sarah Palin was on her appearances had her come off as authoritative, someone with a shot. The skit tonight had the air of a post-election concession. McCain’s own part in the skit was probably fine. The 10 blank plates joke was funny. So was Sarah Palin talking about Palin 2012 and becoming a white Oprah, but it would have been better next week. Tonight, being in a skit with Palin angling for 2012, (Well, someone playing Palin.) it looked like an admission of defeat for McCain to be taking part. If it had been Darrell Hammond playing McCain, it wouldn’t have been as funny, but it still would have somewhat funny.

I’m certain McCain doesn’t see it that way. He’s having a good time, getting some air time and perhaps generating warmth from those watching. The skit will be replayed thousands of times between now and Wednesday. There is a benefit to taking your critics’ arguments and having fun with them yourself. But I also believe three’s an art to it. The skit tonight didn’t measure up to that. Instead, it left an impression of McCain as the loser.

If I would have been in his shoes, I would have done the show, but not that skit

I’m watching the skit about Keith Olbermann now. This one is good, nice tone by Affleck.

UPDATED at 12:20 a.m.: I did a little searching to see if anyone else was opining on the McCain appearance. I found the LA Times recap of the episode. I haven’t seen Weekend Update yet, and apparently he’s on that. From what I’ve read, it doesn’t sound like I would change my general thought.

UPDATED at 12:26 a.m.: OK, that wasn’t bad.